“Oh dang Gabriel!!” was my reaction. Let me explain.

At the start of the afternoon tryout session today, we had a group discussion with the players. We asked some of the guys from the 2012 team to talk about their experience in Iraq and to share with the others what they had learned. Many gave their insights and lessons learned. But what followed was a tough, motivational speech from Gabriel in response to the challenges they acknowledged they’d have to overcome. He said, “this year we’re looking for the players who will be strong mentally and give 100% on the field no matter what. We’re looking for the players who will say, I’ve never played on grass, I don’t care. I don’t have a lot to eat, I don’t care. I have no shoes, I don’t care. I’m going to give it my all and represent the people of Darfur.” Because at the end of the day, Gabriel said, “The ball is round for everybody”.

After hearing this, I wanted to stand up on the rickety wooden bench I was sitting on and shout out, “Yeaaahhh!!” But that would have been lost in translation and awkward. So instead, I sat quietly and wrote down his impromptu inspirational talk with the forward thought of sharing it with you all. What Gabriel said is also a stark reminder of where these guys are coming from and who they’ll be up against. Now they are footballers, but we also cannot forget the conditions in which they live everyday.

Overall, it was a great, eventful day of tryouts. My eyes are still burning from the wind storm. Which was then followed by some heavy rain. None of this stopped the players. The tryouts continued and we all got soaked in solidarity.

Darfur United supporters be excited, because today we saw some strong, talented, hardworking players. I got emotional watching the guys warm up in unison. I had a flash forward moment of what it might look like to see them together in Sweden, and the weight of it all hit me. However, the moment didn’t last too long, because, here and now, we still need to get through tryouts.

Keep following our journey, and remember, the ball is round for everybody.

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